Monday, January 30, 2012

Letters to a young man 8

Hello my friend. Words can’t adequately describe how busy I’ve been of late, and I feel that it’s time I write you back, if only to say a few things and to let you know that I’ve gotten your letters. I won’t address all that you’ve written me specifically, but I want to say a few things about what you wrote. For one thing, I’m impressed with your development. The main thing that strikes me is that you are increasingly willing to take risks and to experiment. A man your age should be doing just that. As life throws rejection and surprise at you, you can pause a moment to reflect and learn, then go forth. From what you’ve written me, this is exactly what you’re doing, and this is the age to do it. Remember,

“The greater part of goodness is the will to be good.” –Seneca

I think of this saying often. How lucky we are to have this wisdom preserved for us. I know that you may find your struggles to be fruitless at times, even meaningless. I do not think that it can be any other way. A man must face this and not give up, for it is this kind of challenge that leads a man to integrate his difficulties into his whole, to fully learn from the experience. Only then will he have no need to ruminate about it further.

As a man gets older, he has to reevaluate his earlier self, his decisions and path, everything that has made him who he is. This can be an uncomfortable thing, but it is necessary if you are to leave unprofitable ways behind you, moving forward to be the grown man that you will one day become. I’ve been engaged in this process a lot of late. It is painful to look honestly upon so many mistakes. And yet, almost as soon as the pain appears it dissipates, and this is part of maturity. Letting go of the mistakes, knowing that you alone are in control of your current and future decisions, and being resolved that the old ways have no more use for you; and also being able to see how there was no other way but for you to have made the mistake.

When a tree grows, it may grow a branch too low to the ground; it does not lose all of the other branches because this low branch fails.

This way, this process, can’t be faked, and it can’t be skipped. Life will be an endless loop of repeated failures and miseries until a man takes self-reflection seriously. No man is perfect. No man can count on the Goddess of Fortune, she always has her day, and she is a fickle bitch; but, show me a man that is steadfast, and true to himself, a man that applies himself to his betterment, to being good, and I will be looking upon a happy and contented man.

Apply every effort to taking an honest look at yourself. This skill, above all others will be the difference maker in your life. It will always be with you.

Farewell for now, my young friend.

My book on stoicism.